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Music Composition For Dummies

March 17, 2008 at 10:51 pm UTC


So if you happen upon the new handbook for beginning composers, Music Composition for Dummies, I triple-dog dare you to turn to Chapter 20: Ten Composers You Should Know About. Never mind that the title of the chapter has a dangling preposition; it’s the 10 composers you should be looking for:

  1. Claudio Monteverdi
  2. Charles Ives
  3. Béla Bartok
  4. Igor Stravinsky
  5. Aaron Copland
  6. Raymond Scott (I think a film and cartoon composer)
  7. Leonard Bernstein
  8. Arvo Pärt
  9. Steve Reich
  10. Eric Whitacre

While I am hugely flattered to be on this list – they even have my bio in there – I’m pretty sure I don’t agree. Beethoven? Debussy? BACH? I think on my list of ten composers about whom you should know would have me somewhere near #10,000, and that’s not simple humility – that’s just common sense. I mean, my god: no Barber? no Mozart? no Britten? Seems to me that the list could start with 250 composers that are absolute superstars in the history of western music, and continue for another 1,000 before you hit Vivaldi.

To their credit, the otherwise excellent authors (Scott Jarrett and Holly Day) begin the chapter by writing that it’s simply impossible to pick ten, and that this list is just ten “extraordinary composers who challenged musical conventions and public perception of what music is supposed to be. ” That’s really cool, and I get a kick out of thinking that I challenge conventions and especially public perceptions. Even better, it will give my Mom something to show her friends. (I know you’re reading this, Mom. Get well soon!).

Truthfully, though, I can’t wait to buy Scott and Holly drinks and explain to them that they are out of their minds. ;-)


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